Posts Tagged ‘Ohio HB 394’

Rent Comes First

January 27, 2016

During his recent State of the Union address the President outlined various retirement account proposals for his last budget. Again, this morning NPR was quoting him as urging Americans to save more. Relying on just Social Security will find them entering poverty on retirement. Analysis finds all this well and good, prudent within the Judeo Christian ethic of personal responsibility. But is it in accord with contemporary America, actual existing America? Not quite 4 years ago, then Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was caught on an audio recording dismissing 40 some percent of Americans who relied on some form of government assistance, thereby guaranteeing his opponent their vote. It is no coincidence that Romney’s statistics mirrored those of the number of people in America who have no financial net worth – their debts equal or are greater than their assets. Within this 40+% are the 20+% of Americans who are officially defined as in poverty. These 40+% live from one source of income to the next. Catastrophic medical events, losing a job, etc. results in crisis and deterioration of any sense of personal financial responsibility, the kind the President is encouraging. Analysis finds it disingenuous to advocate for more savings when 40+% of the population is not in a position to “afford” it. Though economist claim we are in recovery, and Conservatives are racing to shut off the government assistance programs because unemployment is at the magical 5% neighborhood, wages have been quite stagnant, and for most of the 40+%, quite inadequate. Reuters confirms all this with a 1-26-16 report by Lisa Lambert entitled “Obama makes new push to expand retirement savings”. “The proposal would also allow smaller employers to create pooled 401(k) plans. The U.S. workplace is undergoing a transformation, especially with the rise of the “on-demand” economy, which will lead workers to change jobs more frequently and face new challenges in saving for retirement, [Labor Secretary Tom] Perez said. Up-and-coming companies that provide goods and services on demand through phone apps mostly rely on freelancers who are not tied to jobs and traditional employer-sponsored retirement accounts.” This is notable on two counts. During the last month the stock market, to which 401(k) plans are tied, dropped significantly costing individual plans in excess of $8,000 (relying on Social Security will result in poverty?). Additionally, with the changing U S economy (“freelancers who are not tied to jobs and traditional employer-sponsored retirement accounts.”), plans and proposals centered on “employer” provided whatever (healthcare or retirement, etc.) are somewhat misguided. Analysis begins to sense that an individual mandate for an individual working class emerges as default. Eric Pianin for the online Fiscal Times (1-26-16) writes “Why half a million people will lose their food stamps this year” “At least 500,000 people will lose their food stamp benefits this year as many states revert to a strict three-month limitation on benefits, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. At the extreme, as many as one million of the country’s poorest people will lose food assistance, which averages $150 to $170 per person per month. Those affected are people aged 18 to 49 who aren’t disabled or raising minor children. Most of them live a subsistence existence, scraping by with the help of government and charitable organizations and low-paying jobs, although college students are also eligible.” Notable to consider is: “According to the CBPP analysis, the three-month time limit will be back in force in more than 40 states — including 23 states that haven’t imposed this requirement since the start of the recession. “Even SNAP recipients whose state operates few or no employment programs and fails to offer them a spot in a work or training program—which is the case in most states—have their benefits cut off after three months, irrespective of whether they are searching diligently for a job,” the report states.” Analysis continues to reflect on the President’s urging that Americans save so as not to retire in poverty. Reporting for CityLab Henry Grabar headlines “More Americans Are Going Hungry in the Suburbs”. Analysis finds no one to be immune, though all are racing to retirement (actual or only Powerball fantasized). The suburbs Grabar covers is “Rockland County, New York, a bedroom community near the nation’s largest city and one of the top 40 counties in the United States in household income. Still, Rockland, like many suburban counties, has gotten poorer. The percentage of individuals living in poverty here has grown by 5 percent since the millennium. Ramapo, a sprawling Rockland town along the New Jersey border with 126,000 residents, is one of more than a dozen New York City suburbs that had a greater proportion of residents living in poverty in 2010 than in 2000. More than 5,000 Ramapo residents depend on People to People to put food on their table every month.” Most notable and that resonates with actual existing Licking County (at least the one Tim Bubb described in his Newark Advocate Year In Review column of 1-10-16) is : ““You have all the problems of urban hunger, and then you have the physical distance and access problems that are generally less of a problem in compact urban areas,” explained Joel Berg, the director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and a Rockland native. Berg’s mother, late in her life, qualified for food assistance, but physically wasn’t able to reach the providers. Transportation is the primary challenge of getting food—and anything else—to the poor in the suburbs. “No one walks in Rockland County,” Serratore said [Diane Serratore, executive director of People To People]. In any case, the distances are too far. More than 4,000 patrons of People to People, for example, come from Haverstraw, a faded industrial town on the Hudson, nine miles north of the pantry. “Rent comes first,” explained Charleen Borchers, a Rockland resident who works at McDonald’s. “Car insurance comes second. Then, at the bottom of the list, is food.””

Will The Real Conservative Please Stand Up

January 22, 2016

Though Tom Zawistowski might beg to differ, Ohio’s Governor and current Republican presidential wannabe, John Kasich, has always represented himself as a conservative. The current imbroglio within the party of William Buckley and John Birch Society co-founder Fred Koch leads Analysis to ponder conservatism, especially in view of Ohio’s Governor participating in on stage spectacles with the likes of Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. At a less widely covered spectacle in Columbia SC with ditto participants sans Trump and Cruz (Republican Candidates, Minus Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Play Nice at Poverty Forum By Ashley Parker, 1-9-16 NY Times) Kasich is quoted as saying “Do you realize that there are people who are on government assistance who can’t take a pay raise because they will lose more than what they gain?” Zawistowski et al. found Kasich’s embrace of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act to signal his disregard for “conservative principals” (whatever that may be – the subject of this inquiry). In his presidential candidacy Kasich continuously references his years as U S House Representative and his conservative credentials through various successes for the GOP. This was, of course, just after the Presidency of George H. Bush, who was described as a compassionate conservative. Mindful of Kasich’s fellow Republican Barb Sears’ sponsorship and shepherding to passage of House Bill 394 (covered by previous blog postings), Analysis questions how Kasich’s quote at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity ought to be read. As Catherine Candisky writes (in the previous post), Sears’ ardor for reform could be considered as exceptional, matched only by North Carolina’s legislature. Then again, HB 394 may be the tip of an arrow marking the trajectory of such reform across the country (thanks to the state by state strategy of ALEC and the Koch bro’s AFP). The NY Times editorial of 1-21-16, Kentucky’s Bizarre Attack on Health Reform, describes just such an act of conservative reformation ardor, the dismantling of “Obamacare” and its accompanying Medicaid by recently elected Governor Matt Bevin. It must be noted that, like the Governor of KY’s neighboring state of Ohio, Bevin also wraps himself in the mantle of conservatism. Salon’s deputy politics editor, Sophia Tesfaye, analyzes Paul Krugman’s NY Times blog posting in a piece entitled Paul Krugman bursts David Brooks’ fantasyland version of conservatism: “Actually existing conservatism is a radical doctrine” (10-14-15). In it she writes: “Paul Krugman, not one to spike the football, offered a slightly shady “OK, I guess,” to Brooks’ willfully naive definition of conservatism as standing for “intellectual humility” and a “belief in steady, incremental change,”” “Conservatism is “a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible,” Brooks wrote. But “that kind of conservatism left the Republican Party a very long time ago,” Krugman reminds him:… Krugman had to remind his colleague that “by David’s definition Barack Obama is pretty conservative,” citing Obamacare as an example of incremental rather than radical change.” Tesfaye concludes by stating: “My point is that if what you want is traditional conservatism, the only people with real influence with anything like that mindset are Democrats. Actually existing conservatism is a radical doctrine.” This really broadens the political spectrum of left and right with Democrats described as conservatives and conservatives like Ted Cruz as…? Analysis wrote all that to write this: Kasich’s SC Kemp Forum quote could also be interpreted in conjunction with his fellow Ohio Republican and conservative colleague, Barb Sears. What HB 394 is doing is trying to eliminate (cut in half) unemployment compensation “to ensure Ohio provides the best economic opportunities for both employers and employees.” (Sears. Ohio House Of Representatives website guest column 11-19-15). Assuming “Actually existing conservatism is a radical doctrine”, Kasich could likewise answer his rhetorical “Do you realize that there are people who are on government assistance who can’t take a pay raise because they will lose more than what they gain?” along with Sears and Bevin. By cutting government assistance the only gain would be through a pay raise thereby ensuring “Ohio provides the best economic opportunities for both employers and employees.”

Ohio House Bill 394

January 17, 2016

Writing for the Columbus Dispatch on 1-11-16, Catherine Candisky reported on Representative Barbara Sears’ Ohio House Bill 394 (Unemployment benefits changes would ‘dismantle’ anti-poverty program, advocates say). This stealth bill is plodding along the legislative track on its way to being signed into law by presidential wannabe John Kasich. “At a news conference on Monday in Columbus, Advocates for Ohio’s Future, a coalition of nearly 500 health- and human-services groups, said Sears’ bill goes further than any other state to limit benefits to the unemployed.” Currently the proposed bill is in committee, the house insurance committee (previous stomping ground of Newark’s Jay Hottinger who now is in the Senate). This combination of practically non existent press coverage, “grass roots” (conservative base) sponsorship, and radical sweeping change (from those ostensibly opposed to change) may have Ohioans waking up one morning not recognizing the state they live in. AP headlines like yesterday’s “Kansas’ uncertain state finances weighs on some lawmakers”(by Jim Suhr and John Hanna 1-16-16) and a plethora recently from the incredible tragedy in Flint Michigan (state fiscal austerity ahead of public health considerations) indicate determining that problems have been eliminated or don’t exist by legislative fiat simply doesn’t work. The outcomes can be severe. Candisky quotes Sears as saying “it’s just too late to start over.” (is it?), though she is entertaining amendments for those deemed exceptional. “The bill, she said, seeks to shore up Ohio’s unemployment-compensation fund by severely limiting benefits to workers who lose a job. According to an analysis by the independent Legislative Service Commission, H.B. 394 would reduce taxes paid by employers into Ohio’s unemployment compensation fund by $313 million on average each year through 2025. During that same time, benefits to workers would be reduced by an average of $475 million annually.” “In addition, the bill would: Reduce benefits to 12 weeks in times of low unemployment, tying Ohio with North Carolina for lowest in the country. Eliminate added benefits for workers with dependents. Mandate that employees work during at least three quarters in the year to qualify for benefits, a requirement in no other state. Disqualify from benefits any worker who violates their employer handbook, a requirement in no other state. Reduce benefits for senior workers based on the amount of Social Security they receive.” Last Sunday (1-10-16) The Newark Advocate ran Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb’s “A look back and ahead for Licking County”. In true “year in review “ fashion, the accomplishments and successes of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce administered public/private partnership, Grow Licking County, were touted. Following SCOTUS Citizen United ruling precedent (that corporations are persons), the commissioner, and Grow Licking County board member, cited corporate entity after corporate entity responsible for the greatness of Licking County Ohio in the past and upcoming year. Not a single living human being was named in the entire column! Analysis finds no change in the county’s poverty within that period, nor any mention of it by Commissioner Bubb. At the end of her article Candisky reports “Sears said the trend toward part-time workers suggests Ohio’s tax climate is not competitive or attractive to businesses.” Do tell.

Coat Of Many Colors

December 16, 2015

[Analysis will let the reader stitch the threads together]

11-19-15 Ohio House Of Representatives guest column Representative Barbara Sears                                                                                                        “As a legislator, one of my biggest goals is to ensure Ohio provides the best economic opportunities for both employers and employees.”

11-9-15 Ohio House Of Representatives Newsroom release [Barb Sears sponsor of 394]                                                                                               “House Bill 394 would make changes to the law to boost the state’s trust fund and address its overall solvency. First, it would temporarily increase the taxable wage base for employers from $9,000 to $11,000 until the fund reaches the minimum safe level. Second, it would create an adjustable scale to determine the number of weeks a claimant is eligible for unemployment benefits. When unemployment is low, the number of benefit weeks is low, and likewise, when unemployment is high, the number of benefit weeks increases. These measures save the unemployment trust fund money and, ultimately, help the state reach a positive balance more quickly.”

[ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration.] Excerpts from his blog:

WHY THE SHARING ECONOMY IS HARMING WORKERS – AND WHAT MUST BE DONE 11-27-15                                                                                “The so-called “share economy” includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes. “

“It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will be in such uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.”

THE REVOLT OF THE ANXIOUS CLASS 12-14-15                                    “Start with the fact that the middle class is shrinking, according to a new Pew survey.”

“The odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees. “

“Two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time.”

“Many are part of a burgeoning “on-demand” workforce – employed as needed, paid whatever they can get whenever they can get it.”

“Safety nets are full of holes. Most people who lose their jobs don’t even qualify for unemployment insurance.”

THE KOCH BROTHER’S GRAND PLAN TO LIBERATE THE POOR          The Plum Line By Greg Sargent 12-14-15 Washington Post

“The political operation created by the billionaire conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch is quietly investing millions of dollars in programs to win over an unlikely demographic target for their brand of small-government conservatism ― poor people.”

“The outreach includes everything from turkey giveaways, GED training and English-language instruction for Hispanic immigrants to community holiday meals and healthy living classes for predominantly African American groups to vocational training and couponing classes for the under-employed. The strategy, according to sources familiar with it and documents reviewed by POLITICO, calls for presenting a more compassionate side of the brothers’ politics to new audiences, while fighting the perception that their groups are merely fronts for rich Republicans seeking to game the political process for personal gain.”

“The efforts include a healthy dose of proselytizing about free enterprise and how it can do more than government to lift people out of poverty.”

FREE TURKEYS, HOLIDAY PARTIES, CLASSES IN ‘DINNER ON A DIME,’ WITH A SIDE DISH OF CONSERVATIVE PROSELYTIZING.          by Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico 12-14-15

“ “We want people to know that they can earn their own success. They don’t need the government to give it to them,” Koch network official Jennifer Stefano told activists and donors during an August rally in Columbus, Ohio, at which she introduced one such project, Bridge to Wellbeing.”

“Housed within the foundation arm of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch network’s largest group, the program represents “the new way to advance freedom,” Stefano boasted. “And so that’s why, today, you’ll see Americans for Prosperity Foundation reaching out to new communities offering not just classes on the Constitution, and knowing your rights, but on couponing and how to turn your passion into profit by helping other people be successful, to not just tell them about the economy and economic freedom, but to show them that we want them to economically thrive, and how to do it.””

“Charles Koch has long argued ― mostly privately until recently ― that government welfare and regulation actually hold back many of its ostensible beneficiaries. His network’s goal, he told hundreds of ultra-rich conservatives he had summoned to a tony Southern California resort this summer, “is to remove the shackles preventing all Americans, especially the disadvantaged, from pursuing their dreams. That’s what’s happening in this country. We are crushing ― these policies are crushing peoples’ dreams,” including by making “it nearly impossible for the poor to start a small business or, in many cases, even work.””

“At a June 2014 network gathering, donors were given the option of attending breakout sessions entitled “Well-Being: What It Is and Why It’s Important” and “Value-Added Events: Engaging the Middle Third.””

WHEN THE GOVERNMENT TELLS POOR PEOPLE HOW TO LIVE Residents in some public-housing units in Worcester, Massachusetts, must now get a job or go back to school. If they don’t, they’ll be evicted. By Alana Semuels, The Atlantic 12-14-15.

““We tend to be patronizing about the poor in a very specific sense, which is that we tend to think, ‘Why don’t they take more responsibility for their lives?’ And what we are forgetting is that the richer you are the less responsibility you need to take for your own life because everything is taken care of for you,” she [MIT economist Esther Duflo] said in a widely quoted talk at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. “Stop berating people for not being responsible and start to think of ways instead of providing the poor with the luxury that we all have, which is that a lot of decisions are taken for us. If we do nothing, we are on the right track. For most of the poor, if they do nothing, they are on the wrong track.””

“Residents of public housing often have little incentive to work at minimum-wage jobs because their rent is calculated as a percentage of their income. When they work, they pay more rent and they additionally have to pay for childcare and transportation. Sometimes, they end up in a worse financial situation than before they started working, have less time with their families, and are stuck at grueling jobs with little opportunity for advancement.”

TOP KOCH STRATEGIST: “GET OFF YOUR ASS AND WORK HARD LIKE WE DID” Posted on September 2, 2014 by Lady Libertine [Transcript of audio obtained from source who was present at the June network meeting]

[“longtime lieutenant Rich Fink. An executive at the brothers’ multinational industrial conglomerate Koch Industries, Fink advocated for the creation of Stand Together for America, and has sat on the boards of Charles Koch Institute and Americans for Prosperity Foundation, though he left the AFPF board at the end of last month.” Kenneth Vogel Politico]                                                                             Richard Fink [from his speech] “The Long-Term Strategy: Engaging the Middle Third”:

“So the big danger of minimum wage isn’t the fact that some people are being paid more than their valued-added — that’s not great. It’s not that it’s hard to stay in business — that’s not great either. But it’s the 500,000 people that will not have a job because of minimum wage, because there is no such thing as a dead end job. As Martin Luther King said, “(Inaudible) every job is an opportunity.”

Just Dropped In To See What Condition Our Condition Is In

December 10, 2015

Ongoing news of local concern has been the Ohio legislature’s current bills, HB 56 and HB 394. 56 is intended to promote education, skill and experience front and center on State job applications/interviews, with an applicant’s court record deferred until post application/interview, as part of background checks. 394 intends to drastically redo Ohio’s unemployment compensation protocol, rules and procedure, limiting duration and restricting eligibility. Both these proposals are in response to Ohio’s “improved” economy. They approach the improvement from radically different perspectives. 56 challenges John Kasich’s 2015 State of the Union boast (“And you know what’s really great? No one’s being left out. No one.”) while 394 verifies the presidential candidate as a man of action who keeps his word (by offering over $300 mil in tax cuts to businesses). Both are predicated on the perceived belief that the economy is better, and therefore… But is it? Both Donnie Trump and Bernie Sanders feel that economic indicators (relied on by many, including the FED for raising interest rates, etc.) do not reflect the condition on the ground. Like 56 and 394, the two presidential wannabe’s have different reasons and proposals regarding this condition. Writing for Washington Post’s online blog The Fix, Janell Ross headlines “A new study gets at what critics of the official unemployment rate have been saying” (12-9-15). Confirming 56 and 394’s believers, she reports that “On Friday, the government announced that unemployment had remained at 5 percent, meaning 7.9 million Americans were looking for work in November but were unable to find it.” Next paragraphs she writes: “There are about 17 million “job-seekers” in the United States, according to a report released this week by the Alliance for a Just Society, a nonprofit organization that has been tracking what workers need to earn to support themselves and how many of these jobs have been available for the last 15 years. To be clear, that figure includes the nearly 8 million Americans who meet the government’s official criteria for being “unemployed” and another almost 9 million people who are “underemployed (involuntary part-time workers), workers marginally attached to the labor force, and discouraged workers who would want a job if one was available”” Recently it was noted that nationwide, the average monthly rent for an apartment has risen to approx. $800 a month, with home ownership still not at the percentage level it occupied pre “Great Recession” (Analysis has repeatedly quoted Newark’s high non owner occupant residence rate, near 47%). Ross included a table showing various statistics. In Ohio the single adult living wage (needed to stay off government assistance for things like food, shelter, health care, etc.) is a full time job of $14.50 an hour. The total number of job seekers (the unemployed and those “who are “underemployed (involuntary part-time workers), workers marginally attached to the labor force, and discouraged workers who would want a job if one was available.”) is given as 507,000. Total job openings available in Ohio is given at 172,620, with only 52.7% of those paying at or above the single adult living wage. According to the Alliance for a Just Society, this is a 6 to 1 job gap ratio (those needing a living wage job to such available living wage job openings). This radically redefines the conditions under which HB 56 and HB 394 may realistically be considered. Analysis finds that HB 56 seeks to rectify/alleviate this condition while HB 394 would only aggravate it.